“Now comes the rain, with corresponding extravagant grandeur, covering the ground with a sheet of flowing water, a transparent film fitted like a skin upon the rugged anatomy of the landscape, making the rocks glitter and glow, gathering in the ravines, flooding the streams, and making them shout and boom in reply to the thunder.
How interesting to trace the history of a single raindrop! It is not long, geologically speaking… since the first raindrops fell on the newborn leafless Sierra landscapes. How different the lot of these falling now! Happy the showers that fall on so fair a wilderness -- scarce a single drop can fail to find a beautiful spot -- on the tops of the peaks, on the shining glacier pavements, on the great smooth domes, on forests and gardens and brushy moraines, plashing, glinting, pattering, laving. Some go to the high snowy fountains to swell their well-saved stores; some into the lakes, washing the mountain windows, patting their smooth glassy levels, making dimples and bubbles and spray; some into the waterfalls and cascades, as if eager to join in their dance and song and beat their foam yet finer…
Some, falling on meadows and bogs, creep silently out of sight to the grass roots, hiding softly as a nest, slipping, oozing hither, thither, seeking and finding their appointed work. Some, descending through the spires of the woods, sift spray through the shining needles, whispering peace and good cheer to each one of them…
Now the storm is over, the sky is clear, the last rolling thunder-wave is spent on the peaks, and where are the raindrops now -- what has become of all the shining throng? In winged vapor rising some are already hastening back to the sky, some have gone into the plants, creeping through invisible doors into the round rooms of cells, some are locked in crystals of ice, some in rock crystals, some in porous moraines to keep their small springs flowing, some have gone journeying on in the rivers to join the larger raindrop of the ocean. From form to form, beauty to beauty…”
-- John Muir, My First Summer in the Sierra, Mariner Books, 1998 (first published in 1911)
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Showers tend to be common in spring, which is why I schedule many of our waterfall hikes this season, when waterways are likely to be especially spectacular.
Last year we had a long dry spell at this time of year, leaving streams and waterfalls uncommonly low -- whereas this February we received twice as much rain as usual, so the natural world is starting the season with a nice water surplus.
And if temperatures had been warmer in March, the recent series of snowstorms would have come in the form of rain. But the end result is still the same, namely that scenic rivers, streams and waterfalls remain wonderfully full.
The benefits of rain include, of course, that plants, trees, and other living things can quench their thirst and grow as needed, plus the risk of forest fires plummets.
Griping about rain seems to be endemic in our culture, and it greatly misrepresents the potential beauty of showers and rainfall, along with their importance to all life.
As some of you know, I encourage people to refrain from listening to the often toxically negative messages in the media regarding rain and so-called bad weather.
We get caught in “serious” rain on a very small number of hikes each year, often as few as 1-2. We did have two rainy hikes this past winter -- and as usual, many hikers were in high spirits, clearly enjoyed themselves, and told me so (I’m aware that anyone who dislikes wet weather or claims to “hate the rain” may have trouble believing me!)
Anyway, since showers tend to be common in the spring, I address the subject around this time each year, and include advice for less experienced hikers.
Next week I'll feature some Rain & Weather Forecast Basics that I’ve been re-running once a year for those who might appreciate tips, and for others of you who could benefit from a review of some issues involving rain and forecasts.
-- Charlie Cook